Not only has the Covid 19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on personal finances; the government is also feeling the pinch. Budget cuts and a reduction in funding for essential NPOs seem inevitable. The Salvation Army has warned, however, that cutting funds to homelessness services will negate all hard-won gains. It will, in fact, result in serious setbacks, with more at-risk people affected than ever before.
The Salvation Army has written to the Chancellor in an attempt to emphasise the importance of continued funding, stating that spending less year-on-year will squander the progress made in reducing rough sleeping. The church and charity has received plenty of support, with many other homelessness charities and service providers co-signing the letter, which was sent ahead of the one-year Spending Review taking place on the 25th of November.
Setbacks will have long-term effects
As Covid continues and the effects spread, many people who were at risk of homelessness have been pushed over the edge and now have to try and survive on the streets. According to the latest CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) figures there were 3444 people sleeping rough in Greater London between July and September 2020. It was the first experience of homelessness for 1901 of these people, many of whom lost their accommodation as a result of Covid-related financial losses.
The £15 million Protect Programme currently in place provides immediate, short-term relief, but it won’t stretch to cover long-term accommodation, and it certainly can’t address the problems that lead to homelessness in the first place, including mental ill-health, addictions, and domestic violence.
Lorrita Johnson, who exchanged her position as the Strategic Lead of Housing Solutions for Thurrock Council for a job as The Salvation Army Director of Homelessness Services, said that they had just succeeded in repairing the devastating effects of curtailed funding in the 2010s. In fact, a burst of altruism at the onset of the pandemic boosted funding to such a degree that The Salvation Army was able to provide widespread assistance to those in sudden need.
With no end in sight and consistent and long-term funding in short supply, the number of new rough sleepers is set to increase even more, not to mention the number of families trying to make do in cramped temporary accommodation.
Johnson said, “We understand why the Chancellor has to make short-term spending commitments to tackle the economic fall out of the pandemic, but we need assurances that money will be set aside to protect people from homelessness. Currently we have no idea what will happen to funding at the end of March 2021. To resolve this uncertainty and ensure that the progress that has been made so far is not squandered, the Government must make a significant investment at the one-year Spending Review this month.”
She added, “Not only is there a moral argument for protecting people from the risks of sleeping on the streets, but there is also an economic argument to invest now to save money in the future. If the crisis is allowed to spiral once again, as well as rough sleeping rising, thousands of families will end up in temporary accommodation at a cost to local authorities of billions of pounds every year” (1).
The letter from The Salvation Army and its partners calls for the Chancellor to:
- Ideally, invest £1bn in homelessness services in the budget for next year. If this is not possible they’re calling for an investment that at least matches this year’s spending.
- Plan for a secure funding future when he delivers his full Comprehensive Spending Review
Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, a signatory to the letter, Steve Douglas CBE echoed Lorrita Johnson’s comments about the gains made following the disastrous 2010s, and the increase in investment at the onset of the outbreak.
He added, “The introduction of the Next Steps and Rough Sleepers Accommodation programmes marks a positive move towards multi-year funding settlements, and has been welcomed. However, as we enter the latter stages of negotiations between Government departments and the Treasury on budgets for the spending review, the Chancellor should ensure that at the very minimum this year’s level of investment of £700 million in homelessness and rough sleeping is maintained through the next financial year”.
Even if the £700 million is repeated, Douglas said that there will still be a £1bn shortfall in investment to local authorities. For sustainable progress to continue this shortfall needs to be restored.
The Salvation Army has a plan
The Salvation Army isn’t just approaching the government for funding; it has also published its Future-Proof the Roof report (2), which explains exactly how the money invested will permanently reduce homelessness and rough sleeping. The report goes on to explain how investing now will save money in the long-run.
Meanwhile, The Salvation Army is bracing itself for the worst Christmas in years, as the number of rough sleepers escalates across the UK. There is concern that it may not be able to offer shelter, food, and protection to all the vulnerable people who are expected to turn to The Salvation Army for help.
- In Inverness, the corps (church) there is serving takeaway hot meals for rough sleepers.
- In London, The Salvation Army has opened bed spaces to rough sleepers coming out of the hospital, helping to reduce pressures on NHS capacity.
- The corps at Crewe in Cheshire are serving 30 people with hot meals and drinks as although temporarily housed they can’t afford to buy food.
You can read the Letter to the Chancellor here.
Signatories to The Salvation Army’s multi-signatory letter to the Chancellor:
Lorrita Johnson, Director of Homelessness Services, The Salvation Army UK and Ireland
Phil McCarthy, CEO, Caritas Social Action Network (C SAN)
Mark Wiggin, CEO, Caritas Salford
Ben Gilchrist, CEO, Caritas Shrewsbury
Balbir Chatrik, Director of Policy and Communications, Centrepoint
Stephen Bell OBE, Chief Executive, Changing Lives
Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive, Commonweal Housing
Lynsey Sweeney, Managing Director, Communities that Work
Simon Grainge, Chief Executive, Emmaus UK
Patrick Ryan, CEO, Hestia
Kathy Mohan OBE, CEO, Housing Justice
Paul Morrish, CEO, LandAid
Guy Rigden, CEO, MyBnk
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive, National Housing Federation
Normandie Wragg, CEO, Nugent
Jamie Pope, Chief Operating Officer, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) Children & Families Services England
Mark Simms, CEO, P3 Charity: People Potential Possibilities
Karen Briggs, CEO, Phoenix Futures
Andy Keen-Downs, CEO, Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact)
Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director, Release
Sherrylyn Peck, CEO, Safer London
Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive, St Mungo’s
Pam Orchard, Chief Executive, The Connection at St Martin’s
Professor Andrew Hayward, Director, UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care
James Boultbee, CEO, Wycombe Homeless Connection
Lucy Abraham, Chief Executive Officer, Glass Door
Mike Barrett, CEO, Porchlight
Denise Hatton, CEO & National Secretary, YMCA England & Wales
(1) The amount spent on temporary accommodation by local authorities in England is published by the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government (Scroll down to Revenue outturn housing services, (RO4) 2018 to 2019).
(2) The report ‘Future-proof the Roof – The case for sustainable investment to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping post-Covid-19’ is available for download here.